Need help at the food store? Follow some of my simple guidelines to make sure you get the best quality food.
Food shopping can be a daunting task for many people. Sometimes when making a change, it is easier said than done. Patients say to me all of the time
I know I have to avoid these certain foods, but what can I eat?
My answer to that question--> EAT REAL FOOD!
When in doubt, stick to meat, fruit, and vegetables. You want to eat things that look like their original forms. For example, you want to eat organic strawberries instead of strawberry puree. Why?
Foods lose most of their nutritional value during processing. Because of this, the food industry will add back several nutrients that were lost during the preparation process. This is called enrichment. The problem with this, is that these foods will now contain the synthetic forms of these nutrients, requiring your body to go through several more steps in order to absorb and use these nutrients. These foods will also have other added ingredients to them, such as sugar and food preservatives, that can be detrimental to your body.
Another rule of thumb I can give you is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where all the REAL food is. In the center isles, you will have hundreds of prepackaged foods, all containing harmful ingredients and food additives. If you stick to the outskirts of the store, you will most likely be in the clear!
Read All Labels! Even though I advise to stay away from these foods, there are times when we do purchase pre packaged foods. When we do, we need to make sure we read all labels. This is something that is very difficult for about 95% of the American population... and that is because the food companies DO NOT make this easy! Unfortunately, you need a Nutrition degree to be able to read food labels. How fair is that!? Some things to keep in mind:
Read the ingredients list: This is located under the nutrition facts label. When reading the list, the foods that appear first are in larger quantities in that food. For example, if a label reads "Wheat, Sugar, Broccoli extract", that means wheat is the most abundant ingredient in that food, second is sugar, third is Broccoli extract. Rule of thumb, avoid anything you cannot pronounce!!! If you cannot pronounce it, it is not organic in nature, and it should not be in your body!
Check for food allergens: If your Nutritionist told you to avoid a certain food, you MUST read labels. Allergens can be disguised as many other ingredients. For example, if you were told to avoid gluten, you also want to avoid wheat, hydrolyzed wheat protein, barley and rye. A nice go to tip is to check the area UNDERNEATH the food ingredients. This is typically where allergens are listed. Of course it is not enough to just check here, but you want to make sure you read the ingredients thoroughly.
Look at Fat: Fat is a necessary macronutrient for our body to function. Somewhere in history, it was said that fat is bad. But that is WRONG! We need fat to function! But it depends on what type of fat. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids are the fats that are rich in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. We want a lot of these! What we don't want is trans fat and saturated fat. These fats contain omega 6 fatty acids that cause inflammation in the body. So when it comes down to fat, look at the quality of your fat!
Look at Sugar: Sugar is another inflammatory food that Americans have become dependent on. Our bodies are not meant to run on sugar, yet most Americans run on this. Of course, some foods contain natural sugars such as fruits and starchy vegetables. What we want to look for is ADDED sugars. Sugars that have been added in for taste during processing. This will also be seen in the ingredients list if it has been added during processing.
Look at Carbohydrates and Fiber: Carbohydrates are not always the enemy. If you are following a Gluten Free or Mediterranean diet, carbohydrates can still be included in your diet. But we have to crunch some numbers to see the quality. Rule of thumb-- the lower the net carbs, the better the quality of the grain is. Net carbs is subtracting the total fiber from the total carbohydrates. For example, if a food has 9 grams of total carbohydrates, and 7 grams of fiber, this means that that food has a total of 2 grams of net carbs. That is what you would want! What you would want to avoid is if something had 34 grams of total carbs, and 0 grams of fiber. This is most likely a processed white flour or sugar, with no nutritional value.
Look at added Vitamins: As mentioned earlier, many prepackaged foods are enriched or fortified (fortified means nutrients were added in that were never in the food in the first place). This is hard to avoid in packaged foods, but one thing I will touch on a bit, is to avoid Folic Acid. Folate is the form of the Vitamin B6 that you want, and Folic Acid is the synthetic form. Most Americans carry a genetic mutation that cannot process this synthetic ingredient, and by ingesting this, it could potentially contribute to disease development over time. This is quite the loaded topic, and will be discussed at a further time :)
Now that I just overloaded you with a ton of information, it's time to make your food shopping experience fun! Here are some things to throw in your shopping cart that you cannot go wrong with! Try and go as organic as possible when shopping. Organic foods have a higher nutrient quality to them, making them of higher value to you!
Grass fed beef
Wild caught Salmon
These are some other staples in my food cart. These are found in the isles, so it is important to read all labels!
Spices and Herbs!!!! Make your food taste delicious!
Eating healthy shouldn't be a chore. It should be fun, and should taste DELICIOUS! Plus, you will feel great, and that's what's most important. Make your dishes colorful, this way you get a wide range of vitamins and minerals. As I always say... Taste the Rainbow :)